Divalent and trivalent salts exhibit a complex taste profile. They are perceived as being astringent/drying, sour, bitter, and metallic. We hypothesized that human bitter-taste receptors may mediate some taste attributes of these salts. Using a cell-based functional assay, we found that TAS2R7 responds to a broad range of divalent and trivalent salts, including zinc, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and aluminum, but not to potassium, suggesting TAS2R7 may act as a metal cation receptor mediating bitterness of divalent and trivalent salts. Molecular modeling and mutagenesis analysis identified 2 residues, H943.37 and E2647.32, in TAS2R7 that appear to be responsible for the interaction of TAS2R7 with metallic ions. Taste receptors are found in both oral and extraoral tissues. The responsiveness of TAS2R7 to various mineral salts suggests it may act as a broad sensor, similar to the calcium-sensing receptor, for biologically relevant metal cations in both oral and extraoral tissues.

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